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Jessica Walsh is a designer & art director working in NYC, currently as partner of the award-winning duo Sagmeister & Walsh. Her work has won awards from the Type Director’s Club, Art Director’s Club, SPD, Print, and Graphis. She has received various distinctions such as Computer Art’s “Top Rising Star in Design,” and an ADC “Young Gun”.


The Perfect State of Creative Bliss

Who have been your most influential mentors and why? Having a mentor is very important. I always looked up to Paula Scher as a strong woman designer in our industry, and was very lucky that I was able to have the chance to work with her straight out of school. She helped me get my first job at Print magazine, for which I am forever grateful. Stefan has been a huge mentor as well. He's been especially influential in shaping my philosophy on how to run a design studio and how to get good work through to the client. I really respect how he kept the studio small despite numerous opportunities to grow. It allows the studio to be very selective with the work we do and pick nice clients we enjoy working with. We show one option to our clients that we strongly believe in, versus doing many iterations for the sake of showing clients options. This strategy really seems to produce better work and much of the work we do actually gets published.

What has been inspiring you lately? Images from the Hubble gallery. The universe is so beautiful, vast and unknown. We are so young as a species and know so little. This is very exciting and interesting to me. I hope I can find time to study astronomy in my lifetime.

What personal/pro-bono creative projects are you working on, if any?  I am working on a project about relationships & love with my friend Timothy Goodman. I am also working on a separate book project with my friends Verena Hennig and Henry Hargreaves.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your work and what did you learn from it?  Taking on too much is my biggest mistake. The work suffers, I become miserable, and no one benefits from this. I have been trying to learn to say "no" more often so I can focus and do a better job with the work that I do take on.

What music or practice gets you into your creative zone?  Totally depends when you ask me! Right now I am really loving Philip Glass.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?  A psychologist, as I am very interested in people and how we each approach life in such different ways. Or an astronomer, because the universe is incredible and so much to learn. 

Do you have creative pursuits other than design?  Yes, I do film and installation work, a few of the ones I worked on recently are featured at our show "Six Things" at the Jewish Museum. 

What’s your favorite quote on design?  I love this quote by Tibor Kalman as I think its important to keep the curious and playful perspective of a child: “The perfect state of creative bliss is having power (you are 50) and knowing nothing (you are 9). This assures an interesting and successful outcome.” 

Which designer (or design firm), other than yours, do you most admire and why?  Paul Sahre and Christoph Niemann do smart and humorous work. Pentagram has a really interesting model, as it allows the partners to keep small teams but benefit from the resources of a larger agency.

What excites you about design right now?  Doing work that helps people and/or evokes emotion. Seeing work that improves peoples lives or makes them smile or think about things differently.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?  Follow your heart and intuition. Work your ass off, stay persistent, be nice to people. 

What's one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?  No one really knows what they are doing. Just be smart, work hard, and figure it out.